MIAMI (WSVN) - A woman who was hired to take care of an elderly woman is facing several felony charges after, officials said, she financially exploited the woman for over $100,000.
Officials with the State Attorney’s Office announced the charges during a press conference, Tuesday afternoon.
Eighty-one-year-old Myriam Fernandez, officials said, fell prey to exploitation by her caretaker, 61-year-old Gladys Smith, who now faces three first-degree felonies, including the exploitation of the elderly and grand theft of over $100,000.
“To scammers, these homes are like buried treasure, and like the pirates of the past, they work to unearth and steal that fortune,” said state attorney Katherine Fernandez-Rundle.
Fernandez, who lives with an eye disease, found herself alone after losing her Florida driver’s license following a 2021 car accident. Smith, a former Broward County resident, befriended Fernandez, eventually becoming her caretaker. Due to Fernandez’s impaired vision, she was unable to read documents Smith had her sign, including a power of attorney.
Smith used her power over Fernandez to go on a spree, including posing as Fernandez’s daughter at medical appointments, obtaining dementia medication, and even manipulating property documents.
The exploitation was discovered during a wellness check in May 22, 2023 by Fernandez’s childhood friend, Sylvia Napoli, after an anonymous tip to the Department of Children and Families.
During the check, Fernandez was found in distressing conditions, prompting Napoli to alert authorities.
“In a darken room with the strong odor of urine and feces emanating from her person,” Fernandez-Rundle said.
Napoli went to school with Fernandez in Cuba and were childhood best friends.
“Your being here sends another really strong message,” Fernandez-Rundle said. “Very brave. And feisty, I might add.”
Smith had moved to Tallahassee but was arrested seven months ago. She is expected to be transferred back to Miami-Dade County.
For now, Fernandez-Rundle said they are working to get restitution back in Fernandez’s name but it is not guaranteed she’ll gain it back.
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